"Federal legalization could pave way for Ohio hemp market, but uncertainties remain"
Crain's Cleveland Business
December 16, 2018
Excerpt from the article:
There are probably 25,000 acres across the U.S. dedicated to hemp farming today, said Pat Haggerty and Tom Haren, who are both with Frantz Ward
's cannabis law and policy group.
The 2018 Farm Bill means hemp will "explode into huge amounts of interest," Haggerty said.
"Those 25,000 acres will go into hundreds of thousands, if not millions," he said.
But like Kepford, Haggerty points out that excitement about cashing in on hemp — which has a laundry list of uses ranging from CBD extracts to cosmetics, construction materials, paper and clothing — is balanced against a cloud of uncertainty.
Haggerty and Haren are working with state lawmakers to draft statutes for a state-regulated hemp industry. That's something even more legally complicated in the Buckeye State, where medical marijuana is tightly controlled via a rigorous licensing process for growers, processors, testers and retailers. The state has been applying federal rules to hemp, classifying it as marijuana.
That makes hemp effectively illegal to grow and sell under current state laws, which don't automatically change along with federal legalization. Even hemp-derived CBD is only allowed to be sold legally in Ohio through licensed dispensaries that are opening in the coming weeks (the state hasn't really devoted resources to enforcing that, creating additional confusion in the public about which retailers are allowed to sell CBD products
"It's not clear yet how that conflict between a federal hemp program, where the Department of Agriculture can step in and license folks themselves, works in a state with no hemp program," Haren noted.
"All this cries out for Ohio to have its own legislation," Haggerty added.
"But there is real momentum in the general assembly to enact legislation that will legalize and regulate hemp at the state level," Haren said. "And I'm really hopeful that sometime next year we will have a committed hemp program in Ohio."
Many hope those laws could be in place in time for a spring planting season.
"We want consistency between state and federal laws because confusion is bad for business," Haren said.
While hemp legalization feels like a step in that direction, marijuana legalization is still likely a few years away
"I do think this is a huge step forward," Haggerty said, "but I wouldn't see the federal government taking another big step in, say, the next two years."